Overhead shot of dim sums

Keto-ing on in China

I’m currently visiting with my Aunt in China in a place called Shishi in Fujian province. Never heard of it? Neither had I until my Aunt started her business here! I was worried I needed to go off keto whilst on this trip even when I was so well behaved on Christmas day. Other than the first arrival night I’ve been pretty good. Probably not keto, but definitely low carb. The first night I didn’t have time to explain what I ate and decided to be polite and have a sip of the peanut dessert soup and one small egg tart (蛋撻). Neither were very good and that’s not just my keto talking!

Plane trip!

For my flight from Sydney to Xiamen, I decided to pack some nuts to take with me on the plane and so packed a small tub of hazelnuts with me for if I got the munchies. The first meal (lunch) I was offered I asked for the fish meal as it was advertised as having some veges which sounded compliant but it had mostly carrots and beans so I just had some of the fish and left everything else. I also had some coconut water when offered or just plain water (I brought my own water on the plane and finished that as well as the two bottles of water they gave me too.) My reasoning for the coconut water was for the electrolytes… since it’s not something I normally drink.

The ‘dinner’ meal I just skipped. I did have some of the nuts I brought with me. More for the boredom than wanting to eat them!

Dinner

The first main meal was OK diet-wise until the dessert as I mentioned… pigeon, lobster with noodles (I just didn’t eat any of the noodles), veges, fish, some roast pork which was stewed, mushrooms and some soup. I’m sure there was MSG and was cornflour galore but all in all I think I did OK. No way was it going to be keto but low carb yes.

Roast pigeon. Tastes like chicken. Only tougher.
Lobster with noodles. Just avoid the noodles! Broccoli was yum!

So what else have I been having? At my Aunt’s home I’m just either skipping breakfast (although I have been having instant coffee… with Coffeemate!) or having poached eggs or poached eggs with avocado. Avocados here are just as expensive as Sydney! The Coffeemate is definitely not keto friendly but I haven’t been able to find cream or coconut cream in the local supermarket and I prefer a ‘white’ coffee to black. I may just have to have it black. The Coffeemate at 3 teaspoons is adding a whopping 3g (1 gram per teaspoon). It’s not horrendous but the ingredients in it… let’s just say I’m glad the bottle here is in Chinese so I can’t read the ingredients.

Carbohydrates in Chinese

One thing I’ve just learned is how to read the word “Carbohydrates” in Chinese so I can read the nutritional panel in China when browsing the supermarket. It’s:

碳水化合物 

The easiest way to spot it is it usually is the longest set of characters (5 characters) on the nutritional panel!

Actually I just went digging around in my Aunt’s pantry to look for the words on a packet so I can show you what to look out for and found something better! A packet with both English and Chinese! The packet happens to be bread crumbs so of course the carb count is going to be high.

The nutritional panel only shows per 100 g but as you can see the carbohydrate level is high at 72.9 g per 100 g. Definitely a no-no for keto.

Uh oh. I just saw via Google image search that there’s another way of writing carbs on a nutritional panel in Chinese. Here it is:

The extra character at the beginning is the word “total”. This particular version is traditional Chinese 總. In Simplified Chinese it’s 总 .

The above info is pretty useful so I’ll pop it into a page of it’s own rather than hide it in this blog post.

What else is low carb in China?

There are so many choices. They are unlikely to keep me at the keto levels of sub 20 grams but I don’t think I’d be exceeding 50 as I’m being picky with what I am eating. Here are just some of the things I’ve been having:

  • fish soup
  • beef hot pot
  • Sichuan Chicken
  • Steamed mince pork with salty egg
  • veges!
  • salmon (especially grilled salmon head – so yum!!)

I took some photos so I could remember what I ate… and sometimes if the presentation wasn’t good enough I forgot or didn’t take photos…

Beef hot pot. Hot pot must be one of the most keto friendly options there is! Clear soup, veges and meat! DIY condiments so just avoid the riskier ones.
Spicy fish head pot. Yes it has tofu. Yes I had a piece. The preserved vegetables are a sort of pickled vegetable. Surely that’s like sauerkraut?
Yummy stir fried cabbage. Not sure how they do this but it’s super yum!

Steamed pork mince with salted egg.
Eggplant with chicken hot pot

Main non-keto culprits

So what’s stopping a lot of dishes in China from being keto? It’s the cornstarch / cornflour and any hidden sugar in the cooking. Sichuan cooking is somewhat better but any of the braised meats due to sugar and the pre-fried meats as they will have first been dredged in flour or cornflour will be excessive number of carbs.

In the scheme of things though, the options have been largely low carb as long as I don’t have any rice or noodles (sometimes a bit hard in China!). And surprisingly it’s been easy to avoid those as it comes as an extra. Or I just don’t eat them. Noodles I tend to just have some of the soup if that has been ordered or just avoid it.

Yum Cha was hard. Well only sort of. The dumplings and ones with a wrapper I could eat the insides but not the wrapper (which are usually made from a flour based dough).  But I still can have roast goose (yum!), beef, pork ribs, chicken feet, veges and other scrummy things.

More to come

I’m in Shishi China for a few more days at least so many more options to try and eat and maybe some more adventures to the supermarket and shops where I can check things out. I did get a cup of grass jelly which I will talk about in a future post once I’ve done some more research.

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